Rural setting? Check. Innocent but free-spirited female protagonist? Check. Sequence of tragic events caused by misunderstandings and the workings of fate? Check. It must be a Thomas Hardy novel!
Far from the Madding Crowd is essentially about the choices of the heroine, Bathsheba Everdene. There are three men in her life who want to marry her: Gabriel Oak, caring and proud; the respectable and mentally fragile Farmer Boldwood; and the seductive but irresponsible Sergeant Troy. As the owner of a farm, Bathsheba’s an independent woman and doesn’t actually have to marry at all to be financially secure. The film version, adapted for the screen by David Nicholls and directed by Thomas Vinterberg, concentrates on the relationship dynamic between Bathsheba and Gabriel in particular and also emphasises the independent woman theme. The plot is quite close to the 1874 book, with added romance and a dash of feminism.
Filmed in the English counties of Oxfordshire, Dorset and Somerset, there are some beautiful scenes and the light is just perfect. The acting is excellent, particularly Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba, Michael Sheen as Boldwood, Matthias Schoenaerts as Gabriel and Tom Sturridge as Sergeant Troy. There’s a timeless yet vital quality to the film and I’m sure Thomas Hardy would’ve loved it.
To say that I enjoyed this film would not be telling the truth – there are some upsetting tragic scenes and it’s one of those stories where you wish that the two leading characters had got together from the start, instead of going through heartbreak with other casualties along the way, before finally ending up together. But then there’d be no story. Let’s say I appreciated this film and that there were many things I admired about it.